Today’s Pesach (Passover) task was cleaning the ovens in preparation for kashering them (cleaning and heating them for Passover use). It was easier than I expected, but still took me about two hours. I felt exhausted afterwards for the rest of the day. I listened to another livestreamed online shiur (religious class) by Rabbi Lord Sacks (he seems to be doing them weekly at 5.30pm during the coronavirus crisis) and I did one or two small tasks, but that was all I really managed today. I didn’t even get out for a walk.
This has been a time of forcing me to confront things. I’ve taken on more of Pesach preparation in recent years anyway, but now I’m doing even more. So far I have been OK with the religious OCD. I have asked some questions of my rabbi mentor, but generally not panicked, and I’ve been OK with stuff that would have made me anxious even last year. That said, I was worried about some things earlier today. I can sort of see that they’re probably OK, but also I worry that they’re really not OK. This is better than in the past when I would be a mess; also, part of my anxiety this time was from tiredness and hunger, which I know make the OCD anxiety worse. At least I managed to deal with some things that would have induced ordinary kashrut (dietary law) OCD anxiety in the past without really giving in to it.
The hunger went after eating dinner and the OCD anxiety subsided a little, but I still feel tired and listless, but not sleepy (anyway, if I go to bed early, I know I’ll just sleep even longer than usual). I wanted to do more Torah study or to write this week’s devar Torah (Torah thought), but I just don’t have the energy. Ditto for working on that short story I started at the weekend and haven’t touched since.
It doesn’t help that I’ve got vaguely bored of the books I’m reading. I’m reading a non-fiction book on the Russian Revolution, one of those small study aid-type books aimed at A-Level students and undergraduates. I started reading it because I was trying to alternate between fiction and non-fiction and thought it would be a quick read, but I don’t really feel like reading non-fiction or heavy fiction in the lockdown. I’m just struggling too much emotionally for anything heavy. The other book is a Doctor Who spin-off novel that I’m re-reading, The Scales of Injustice, an attempt to mix the down-to-earth style of the 1970 series of Doctor Who with The X-Files conspiracy-type stories that were the rage when the book was published in 1996. I was enjoying at first, but now, perhaps because of feeling overwhelmed with depression and anxiety, or perhaps because of unclear writing, I’m struggling to work out who the characters are in relation to each other, or what exactly is going on. I am sufficiently involved to want to finish it, but I’m not sure how much of the remaining eighty pages I will actually understand and may need to look the book up on TARDIS Data Core (online Doctor Who encyclopaedia).
I actually feel like I’m swimming in Too Much Stuff rather than too little. Aside from the DVDs I panic-bought when the lockdown started… and apart from the huge stack of unread fiction and non-fiction on my bookshelves… and apart from the blogs that are still posting despite the lockdown… so many individuals and organisations are sending out things to read or watch. Are most people just reading or watching stuff all day on lockdown? The experience of me and my family is struggling with housework, minimal shopping, Pesach preparations and (for my parents) working from home, without much time/headspace for other things. Admittedly a huge chunk of my day is taken up with sleeping because of depression, and my parents have to fit in regular hospital appointments, but I do still wonder how much free time other people have.
I’ve got four different emails from The Jewish Review of Books to read, some with more than one article in them. I’ve got a whole free stand-up comedy show to watch from the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) comedian Ashley Blaker, who last week sent out a 100+ page joke book, which I’ve now read (admittedly most pages had just a couple of jokes on them). I’ve got a couple of articles by Rabbi Lord Sacks to read, in addition to the livestreamed shiur I watched earlier. UnHerd.com is still updating with multiple articles every weekday, although I’m increasingly trying to avoid it, or be more careful about what I read, as a lot of the articles are scary coronavirus speculation that I can’t do anything about and might turn out not to be true tomorrow. The same goes for the BBC news site, which I only really glance at anyway as the BBC’s idea of what constitutes a story and mine are not the same, even aside from political differences.
It’s hard for me to just skip or delete stuff. Most of what I’ve mentioned above is likely to be interesting or amusing (E. won’t want me to link to a long piece of writing by her that I just read, but it was very good – I know you’re reading!). I feel bad about missing things. E. thinks this is something I should work on. She has been urging me for a while to give up on a book partway through, something I almost never do. I suppose there is fear of missing something. With fiction, it’s wanting to know how the story ends, even if I’m not enjoying it. Also complex feelings of obligation.
I feel a little better now, but I was naughty and ate ice cream to cheer myself up. I’m also going to watch Life on Mars in a minute even though it will go way past my 11pm screens deadline, as if I don’t do some passive relaxation, I won’t sleep.